Islamabad: Energy-starved Pakistan has increased the budget of its Atomic Energy Commission by a whopping 78 per cent to Rs 39.2 billion for the next fiscal year as part of efforts to speed up work on nuclear power plants to generate cheaper electricity.
The allocation for the PAEC is almost 11 per cent of the total federal development budget estimated at Rs 360 billion for fiscal 2012-13.
A major chunk of the PAEC`s budget has been allocated to two nuclear power plants, The Express Tribune quoted budget documents as saying. An amount of Rs 34.6 billion has been allocated for the third and fourth reactors at the Chashma nuclear power complex.
The total cost of these two projects is Rs 190 billion, and they will be partially funded by a Chinese loan of Rs 136 billion.
The government has so far spent Rs 62.4 billion on the plants that will generate 660 MW. With Rs 34.6 billion in additional spending, the government will be able to complete almost half the work on the plants by June 2013, the report said.
To meet the growing energy deficit, the PAEC has been assigned an ambitious target of generating 8,800 MW of nuclear power by 2030. Pakistan is keen to seek assistance from China and France to meet the goal, according to a senior government official.
Due to inconsistency in policies, Pakistan`s energy mix has drastically changed with hydro-power generation declining to a third and thermal generation increasing to two-thirds.
This has resulted in expensive power generation.
The two new nuclear power plants at the Chashma complex in Punjab province are being built by the Chinese.
The PAEC is currently carrying out 28 projects and studies with an estimated cost of Rs 237 billion.
According to documents cited by the Tribune, an amount of Rs 35.5 million has been sanctioned to carry out survey and feasibility studies for six additional nuclear power plants sites.
The total cost of the feasibility studies is Rs 150 million.
An amount of Rs 790 million has been set aside for a joint pre-project feasibility and design study of a 1,000 MW nuclear power plant in the port city of Karachi.
A sum of Rs 100 million has been sanctioned for the development of a project team for site development and installation of nuclear power plants of 300 MW and 1,000 MW in Karachi.
The government has also sanctioned Rs 400 million for the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority.